Nashville SC

Nashville SC and Ake Loba terminate contract by mutual consent

Mike Meredith/Club and Country

At long last, the inevitable has come to fruition. Aké Loba is no longer a Nashville SC player:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 1, 2023) – Nashville Soccer Club announced today it has mutually agreed to terminate forward Aké Loba’s contract, and he has been placed on waivers.

Nashville SC release

The initial intent was obviously a loan-to-buy agreement with Mazatlán, but when he suffered a season-ending injury with the Liga MX side, they weren’t obligated to follow through on the purchase. In the end, Nashville SC did what made the most sense, and simply parted ways with the Ivorian Designated Player.

He finished with three goals and two assists (two and one, respectively, in MLS play) during his time with Nashville SC. As with some other high-profile misses – namely U22 Initiative signing Rodrigo Piñeíro – there are reasons both inside and outside of Nashville SC’s (and the player’s) control* that the move didn’t work out, but when it comes at a high price tag and that’s all you get for it as he spends almost two years occupying a DP slot, you could certainly consider that less than ideal. It goes down as a scouting miss one way or the other.

Loba’s game had a flair for trying to make the exciting play, and he was never able to calibrate exactly what was a risk worth taking – while he occasionally pulled off that excitement, he was more frequently a turnover machine, and for a squad that plays low-possession games, sacrificing some of those possessions with a very low percentage chance of actually creating a moment of danger never seemed to make him a fit.

With Loba off the books, Nashville clears a Designated Player slot, and while he’ll likely receive most of his ~1.5m salary for the 2023 season, it will not hit Nashville SC’s cap. Since he was out on loan, the termination of his contract does not free up an International Slot (because he was off-roster and therefore not occupying one, though you may recall that Nashville SC acquired one before the Transfer Window closed.

As for when said international slot can be used… since the Transfer Window is indeed closed (as of April 24), it’s unlikely that Nashville can pick up the DP striker of everyone’s dreams any time soon. An intraleague acquisition or a player who is out of contract are the only options at this stage (or theoretically a player who is registered in the US but not for an MLS club – I doubt anyone meeting that description is a DP candidate!). Getting Loba off the books and holding an International Slot gives Nashville plenty of flexibility when the Secondary Transfer Window is open July 5-Aug. 2.

From Loba’s perspective, he’s now a free agent and within MLS, on waivers – an enterprising MLS club like Nashville SC should sign him! – and it’s most likely that he rehabs his injury and tries to catch on with a new club somewhere else (possibly still in Mexico, where he’s played most of his career and found plenty of success).

* Signing a player whose first language was French when to my knowledge only Brian Anunga has more than a passing knowledge of it (maybe Alex Muyl? I believe his parents are French ex-pats who met in the US) is understandable when you figure he can communicate in Spanish… but the social isolation is a factor. A guy who arrived out-of-season and out-of-shape and never seemed to get into 90-minute fitness is a red flag. And of course, there’s a simple stylistic fit of Loba being a guy who’s going to try shit one way or another, and Nashville’s system puts more value on retaining the ball than Loba’s success rate was able to deliver, etc. etc.

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